2176. Opening economics to history – an example

July 13 provocaion 261 opening economics to history

We talk about the integration of economics in its current form with the social thought that was stripped out of economic perspectives, especially by John Stuart Mill, our purpose to better think about current problems which blend economics with politics and  ethics and are served by historical understanding. Here is very interesting article by Dotan Lesham.


If you are short on time, just give a quick scan and feel the texture of what is possible,
and what is a part of the history of economics. There are wonderful passages such as

…..such as political and theoretical life. When a person is solely preoccupied with monetary gain that goes out of bounds, he or she will never cease to economize and will never rise above economic occupations into nobler ones such as politics  and philosophy, which Aristotle deems happy. As such, this preoccupation undermines the existence of the political community.


Mill describes the aspect of human action that governs the domain
of inquiry of political economy in the following manner:35
[Political economy] does not treat of the whole of man’s nature as
modified by the social state, nor of the whole conduct of man in
society. It is concerned with him solely as a being who desires to
possess wealth, and who is capable of judging of the comparative
efficacy of means for obtaining that end. It predicts only such of
the phenomena of the social state as take place in consequence
of the pursuit of wealth. It makes entire abstraction of every other
human passion or motive. . . . Political Economy considers mankind
as occupied solely in acquiring and consuming wealth; and aims at
showing what is the course of action into which mankind, living in a
state of society, would be impelled, if that motive . . . were absolute
ruler of all their actions.36


I fear there is another obstacle that arises for those who wish
to attain public happiness by economizing virtue rather than vice. Given
the current state of affairs, in order to rehabilitate virtuous life, politically,
economically, and philosophically, we must begin by reconstructing the distinction
between market and economy, and, not less important, denaturalizing
the market. Such denaturalization of thethe market requires tackling two
things: first, the boundless wants that arise in each and every one of us
when entering market relations; and second, the imminent threat posed
by the market to the stability of our political and economic communities.
As the recurring crises that are the hallmark of modern marketized economy
may have taught us, not much has changed in this respect since the
days of Aristotle. Then as now, the following words of Aristotle seem to
apply: that we, who “take for our special consideration the study of the form
of political community that is the best of all the forms for a people able to
pursue the best mode of life . . . may be thought to enter upon this inquiry
because these forms of constitution that already exist are not satisfactory”


footnote 33 contains a very interesting set of book references.

comments encouraged,

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